As fans of the NHL - or any sport, for that matter - there really is nothing better than a big blockbuster trade that turns the tide of two organizations. Even when it’s not your favorite team involved, there’s something about a massive transaction that shakes the league and awakens the hockey world. Twitter, Facebook and all types of social media comes alive, different sports channels spend multiple segments on debating and fans debate who won and lost the trade for hours. It can be a lot of fun.
However, to be able to fairly and accurately evaluate a trade you need to revisit it years later, not minutes later. Today’s list examines the biggest NHL trades made since the 2004-05 lockout, and we’ll be taking it one step further, asking the questions: who won the deal? Who lost the deal? Was it worth it?
Some of the trades that appear on this list are still too fresh to fully evaluate, but for a majority of them the book has been written, finalized and published for stores. A few of the deals have actually turned out to be pretty even in the end, which, in most instances, is rare. Whereas, on the other hand, some of the deals are so lopsided it’s almost unbelievable that an NHL general manager actually pulled the trigger and agreed to call it a done deal.
Without further ado, here’s the list: the top 15 biggest trades since the 2004-05 NHL lockout: who won the deal?
15 Erik Johnson for Kevin Shattenkirk
The details: On Feb. 19, 2011, the St. Louis Blues acquired Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and a 2nd round pick from Colorado Avalanche for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, and a 1st round pick.
At the time of this deal, it seemed like a curious transaction on the part of the St. Louis Blues. Erik Johnson was a former 1st overall pick for the club, and Shattenkirk was just a rookie offensive defenseman for the Avs (albeit a promising one). Today, however, the deal looks fairly even, as Shattenkirk has continued to develop into an elite offensive defenseman, while Johnson has established himself as a reliable stay-at-home D-man.
Winner: This is as close to a draw as you can get, as both Johnson and Shattenkirk have served their clubs well. Since that’s a cop-out answer, I’m going to give the edge to the Blues.
14 Coyotes Trade Keith Yandle
The details: On March 1, 2015, the Arizona Coyotes traded Keith Yandle, Chris Summers, and a 4th round pick to New York Rangers for Anthony Duclair, John Moore, a 2nd round pick and a 1st round pick.
This trade went down at the 2015 deadline as New York was bulking up for a playoff run and Arizona was in “next year” mode. Make no mistake, Keith Yandle is certainly an elite defenseman, but that is one steep price to pay for a player that has likely already played his last game as a Blueshirt.
Winner: Arizona. If the Rangers won a Cup with Yandle one of these past two seasons, it might be a different story. But with how well Duclair looked in Arizona, coupled with the fact that they still get New York’s 1st round pick at the upcoming draft thanks to this deal, the ‘Yotes have the clear edge.
13 Ryan Miller Leaves Buffalo
The details: On Feb. 28, 2014, the St. Louis Blues acquired Ryan Miller and Steve Ott from Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a 1st round pick and a 3rd round pick.
Fed up with their goaltending letting them down when it matters most, the Blues decided to sell the farm for rental Ryan Miller at the 2014 deadline. Miller, meanwhile, had achieved franchise goalie status in Buffalo, leading the club in most major statistical categories.
Winner: Buffalo. When you consider the fact that the Blues were ousted in the first round of the playoffs and Miller left that summer to sign in Vancouver, it’s an easy call. Even with Halak never amounting to much in Buffalo, the Sabres got solid assets for a player who would've left that summer anyway.
12 Garth Snow Guns for Thomas Vanek
The details: On Oct. 27, 2013, the New York Islanders acquired Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres form Matt Moulson, a 1st round pick and a 2nd round pick.
Garth Snow had some crazy idea in his head here where Thomas Vanek would come along and score 50 goals riding shotgun to John Tavares. What’s curious is that he sent away Matt Moulson to get him. Moulson had been riding shotgun to Tavares for several years and had enjoyed three consecutive 30-goal seasons in the role.
Winner: Buffalo. No question here, as Vanek didn’t even finish that season with NYI, let alone re-sign with them at season’s end. Moulson, meanwhile, is still in Buffalo (after a brief stint in Minnesota, which garnered a few other assets), and they have a few other assets coming up through the system thanks to the picks.
11 Bruins Trade Dougie Hamilton
The details: On June 26, 2015, Boston Bruins dealt the rights to Dougie Hamilton to Calgary in exchange for a 1st round pick and two 2nd round picks.
Up against the cap and unable to come to terms on a new deal with the young defenseman, the Bruins dealt the rights to pending RFA Dougie Hamilton at last season’s draft. Sure they got a handful of somewhat valuable draft picks for the defender, but his absence was certainly felt in Beantown in 2015-16.
Winner: Calgary wins this deal. Time could change this (if any of the three picks Boston got in return makes something of himself), but as of right now Calgary has incredible depth on defense thanks to the trade and Boston is sorely lacking the element of the game that Hamilton brings to the ice.
10 Scott Gomez for Ryan McDonagh
The details: On June 30, 2009, the Montreal Canadiens acquired Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Michael Busto from the New York Rangers for Ryan McDonagh, Pavel, Valentenko, Doug Janik, and Christopher Higgins.
At the time this trade was made, Scott Gomez was the best player involved. Chris Higgins was the only other player with any sort of NHL experience to speak of, and defenseman Ryan McDonagh was still in college.
Winner: Obviously, the Rangers won here. Gomez fell off a cliff shortly after arriving in Montreal, and McDonagh soon emerged as a reliable regular on the Rangers blue line, often logging top-pairing minutes.
9 Lowe Nabs Chris Pronger for Eric Brewer
The details: On Aug. 2, 2005, the Edmonton Oilers acquired Chris Pronger from the St. Louis Blues for Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch, and Jeff Woywitka.
Most Oiler fans generally agree that Kevin Lowe is a clown when it comes to managing a hockey team, but you really have to hand it to him on this deal. Who knows how he convinced Blues GM Larry Pleau to part with the stud defenseman. Perhaps he knew something that nobody else did?
Winner: The Oilers. Of course they only enjoyed the services of Pronger for one unforgettable season (in which he carried them to the Final), but the pick they received in the following summer’s Pronger deal with Anaheim yielded Jordan Eberle, who is still an asset in Edmonton.
8 Martin St. Louis for Ryan Callahan
The details: On March 5, 2014, the New York Rangers sent Ryan Callahan, a 1st round pick, and a conditional 2nd round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Martin St. Louis.
It was an awkward breakup for Martin St. Louis and GM Steve Yzerman in Tampa. Yzerman was responsible for constructing the Canadian Olympic roster in 2014, and he had originally left St. Louis—the reigning NHL scoring champ and his team captain—off the squad. Of course he was later added as an injury replacement for teammate Steven Stamkos, but the damage had been done, and the Rangers and Lightning eventually swapped captains.
Winner: Rangers. Some might be surprised to hear that, as St. Louis is retired and Callahan is still in Tampa. However, Callahan is grossly overpaid (and was going to be wherever he ended up, including New York), and St. Louis did help the Rangers to the Final that season.
7 Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones
The details: On Jan. 6, 2016, the Columbus Blue Jackets sent Ryan Johansen to the Nashville Predators for Seth Jones.
In a case of terrible asset management on the Jackets’ part, they were pretty much forced to trade Ryan Johansen because they weren’t going to be able to afford to re-sign him anyway. How are you supposed to pay Johansen—a number one center—what he deserves when you have all that dough tied up in Nick Foligno and Brandon Saad?
Winner: Predators. This could change if Jones emerges as a top-pairing defender, but right now the Predators got what they have desperately needed for a decade (a number one center), whereas the Jackets don’t really know for sure what they have in Jones.
6 Andrew Raycroft for Tuukka Rask
The details: On June 24, 2006, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded the rights to Tuukka Rask to the Boston Bruins for Andrew Raycroft.
I’ll be honest, the Toronto Maple Leafs really figure heavily into the rest of this list, and mostly not in a good way. This is perhaps the most lopsided of all of them, as Raycroft never again came close to the magic of his 2003-04 rookie season, and Rask has been one of the more reliable goalies in the league for years.
Winner: Boston, obviously. Leafs GM John Ferguson, Jr. thought Justin Pogge, who was also in their system at the time, was the better bet for the future. Good call.
5 Dion Phaneuf heads to Toronto
The details: On Jan. 31, 2010, the Calgary Flames traded Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie, and Fredrik Sjostrom to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers, and Ian White.
This was one of Brian Burke’s biggest moves as GM of the Leafs. He really wanted to put his stamp on the team, and acquiring Phaneuf as he entered the prime of his career was a good bet at the time. It didn’t quite work out the way he’d hoped, but the package he surrendered wasn’t exactly full of big names either.
Winner: Let’s say Toronto by a hair. The Leafs only had one playoff appearance with Phaneuf, but he was still the best player in the trade, and that’s the tiebreaker when it’s close.
4 Roberto Luongo for Todd Bertuzzi
The details: On June 23, 2006, the Vancouver Canucks acquired Lukas Krajicek, Roberto Luongo, and a 6th round pick from the Florida Panthers for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, and Alex Auld.
The situation was still weird in Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi and the Canucks, as they hadn’t really recovered from that whole Bertuzzi-Moore unpleasantness. They decided a change of scenery was best, and were able to work out a deal with the Panthers involving their franchise goalie Roberto Luongo.
Winner: Canucks. Bertuzzi suffered a back injury early in the 2006-07 season, and in the end he only played seven games as a Panther. Luongo, on the other hand, gave the Canucks almost eight full seasons of quality work, including a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
3 Tyler Seguin sent to Dallas
The details: On July 4, 2013, the Boston Bruins dealt Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, and Ryan Button to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith, and Matt Fraser.
No one knows for sure why Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli dealt the fledgling superstar to Dallas for lesser parts that summer, but there’s been ample speculation. Some say they had to hire a guard to keep Seguin in his hotel room at night on the road during the 2013 playoffs. But I don't want to gossip.
Winner: Dallas. They got the best player in the deal, and although Eriksson is fresh off a great season, it’s unlikely the Bruins will be able to keep him.
2 Bruins trade Phil Kessel
The details: On Sept. 18, 2009, the Boston Bruins traded Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for two 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick.
Phil Kessel is a great player, and he’s currently putting the finishing touches on a remarkable postseason run with his new team, the Penguins. When this trade was made, Toronto was acquiring a proven scorer for what was a bunch of maybes. Smart move, right? Wrong.
Winner: Boston. The two 1st round picks that went to Massachusetts in this deal turned out to be Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. Seguin is an upgrade on Kessel as it is, but throw in top-four defender Dougie Hamilton and the deal becomes terribly lopsided.
1 Bruins Trade Joe Thornton
The details: On Nov. 30, 2005, the San Jose Sharks acquired Joe Thornton from Boston Bruins for Wayne Primeau, Brad Stuart, and Marco Sturm.
The biggest trade on our list happened not two months into the 2005-06 season. It is also one of the more lopsided deals on the list, as Thornton went on to win the scoring title and Hart Trophy THAT SEASON. He’s also still an incredible hockey player (over 10 years after the trade) for the Sharks and one of the greatest playmakers in the history of the NHL.
Winner: Sharks. I need not say more.
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